Endurance exercise affects all tissues of the body, even those not normally associated with movement

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Wednesday May 1, 2024

An NIH-funded project in rats also reveals widespread differences between male and female organisms.


A large research project on young adult rats found that all body tissues tested responded to exercise training, representing more than 35,000 biological molecules that respond and adapt to endurance exercise over time. time, including tissue from organs not typically associated with exercise. The researchers also found more widespread differences in responses than expected between male and female rats, highlighting the importance of including animals of both sexes in preclinical research. The effort, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), used data from thousands of analyzes of 19 tissue types and identified molecular changes in genes, proteins and metabolites, which are essential substances to the metabolism of a particular organism or to a particular metabolic process. The results are published in a group of articles in Nature.

Although molecular changes were observed in all tissues, the way each tissue responded was unique. For example, effects on the functions of mitochondria, which are cellular centers for energy production and metabolism, were observed throughout the body, but the specific changes observed differed by tissue. For example, researchers found that mitochondria in the adrenal gland responded substantially to endurance training, including changing the regulation of nearly half of the mitochondria-associated genes. This was surprising because the adrenal glands had not been explored in detail for their role in exercise before.

Additionally, differences were found in molecular responses to endurance exercise between young male and female rats in most tissues tested, including brain, adrenal glands, lung, and adipose tissue. Scientists have discovered striking differences in white adipose tissue responses between the sexes, findings that could play a role in research into how exercise interventions might be recommended to men or women suffering from diseases such as obesity. Differences between the sexes’ responses to exercise in humans or animals have not been well characterized, and these results highlight the need to include both sexes in future exercise research in order to fully understand its role on health.

By tracking the impact of exercise on biological molecules in humans and rats, scientists create a map of molecular changes in the body after exercise. Rat studies allow a wider range of tissue types to be analyzed compared to human studies, and the resulting knowledge will allow various hypotheses to be explored and guide researchers in their analysis of human data.

Researchers are currently conducting an exercise study in humans that will provide a better understanding of why the body responds to exercise and how that response varies across people’s ages, genders, body compositions and fitness levels. different physical conditions. In the long term, this knowledge could allow clinicians to recommend specific, personalized exercise programs to their patients to treat or prevent a variety of diseases and health conditions.

The NIH Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Consortium (MoTrPAC), launched in 2016 to uncover how exercise improves and maintains our health at the molecular level, is funded by the NIH Common Fund and overseen in collaboration with the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. For a list of current projects, visit For more information about the adult and pediatric clinical studies, visit under NCT03960827 and NCT04151199 or visit the recruitment webpage to learn more about how you can participate.

The data produced through this research project is publicly available for further analysis and direct upload to encourage more hypotheses from the biomedical community.


Concepcion Nierras, Ph.D., Office of the Director, Office of Strategic Coordination


MoTrPAC Study Group. “Temporal dynamics of the multi-omics response to endurance training” Nature 2024. DOI number: 10.1038/s41586-023-06877-w

About the NIH Common Fund: The NIH Common Fund encourages collaboration and supports a range of exceptionally high-impact programs across the NIH. Common Fund programs are managed by the Office of Strategic Coordination in the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives in the Office of the Director, NIH, in partnership with NIH institutes, centers, and offices. More information is available on the Common Fund website:

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH):
The NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, is comprised of 27 institutes and centers and is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The NIH is the primary federal agency that conducts and supports basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and studies the causes, treatments, and cures for common and rare diseases. For more information about the NIH and its programs, visit

NIH…Transforming discovery into health®


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